Lingua Nova (pop edition)

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Culture, Idle Nonsense, Nomenclature
Tags: ,

It’s been a long while since I’ve written about neologisms. They come across my radar with some regularity, though I don’t bother to collect them. It’s arguable, too, that since most neologisms arise in pop and hipster culture, there is no point to referring to this post as a “pop edition.” Those caveats in place, here goes:

The old prank about directing visitors to NYC to addresses on Avenue of the Americas got an update. Now the joke is to offer a restaurant recommendation: the Umbrella Room. Turns out this in-joke actually refers to one of the street vendor carts selling pretzels or hot dogs. I suppose the joke is especially gratifying in two parts: a first New Yorker initiating and then the poor sap asking a second New Yorker for help locating the damn place. I think maybe I heard this term in a movie.

Considering Miley Cyrus has been on a graceless promotional bender for most of the year, I finally got around to learning what twerking is. She didn’t originate the move (dance? really?), but she’s probably more closely associated with the term than anyone else. Like other bits of Cyrus ephemera lodged in my brain, I’m none too happy to have my mind colonized by her nonsense. But with the media gaze still firmly fixed her, the latest pop-tart sensation, it’s inevitable that some of her antics penetrate my defenses.

Editors of the estimable Oxford English Dictionary have named selfie the word of the year. Really? Word of the year? What is this, seventh grade? Google provides trend analysis for those who care. The meaning is utterly unimportant, and I’ve not bothered to provide a definition. Other than admitting new terms into the dictionary, when did such fluff warrant the attention of OED editors?

The most interesting one by far (for me, at least) is neckbeard, which refers (variously) to a nerdy enthusiast who doesn’t bother shaving his neck. It’s appeared derisively in several columns and blogs I read, though without apparent provocation or context. I especially like a definition found at Urban Dictionary:

Talkative, self-important nerdy men (usually age 30 and up) who, through an inability to properly decode social cues, mistake others’ strained tolerance of their blather for evidence of their own charm.

Other associations include excessive video gaming and social awkwardness. Is it only time before a feminine equivalent appears?

Update: I forgot to mention one that isn’t new coin exactly but is new to me, namely, four on the floor. This refers to the driving beat in dance music that is consistently weighted across the standard four-beat pattern, as opposed to the more traditional back-beat emphasis on two and four. It is no surprise to me that, while being a rather sophisticated musician, I’d never heard this term. Reason being, I don’t dwell on pop or dance or synth or rock. My tastes run more to classical and jazz. Thus, I fare very poorly at karaoke not because I can’t carry a tune but because I frankly don’t know many of the songs to sing. Plus, what’s being produced these days has little of the appealing tunefulness of, say, the Great American Songbook.

  1. motorola says:

    Hmmm…I thought four-on-the-floor referred to a four-gear stick shift located on the center floor board, as opposed to three-on-the-tree (three-gear stick on the steering column). Does this indicate a movement away from car-centric culture?

    • Brian Miller says:

      Yep, that was a new one for me as well. I only knew the term from driving. But I’m with him on the new word “selfie”. If that marks the blossoming of cultural growth in the orchard of the English language last year, then we are in deeper shit than we realize.

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